New Delhi: In a strong message to countries that provide citizenship to fugitive economic offenders through investment-based schemes, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has called for the need to strongly deal with such practices.

Speaking at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Fukuoka (Japan) over the weekend, Sitharaman underscored the importance of international cooperation when it comes to dealing with economic offenders who “flee their countries to escape from the consequences of the law.”

Issuing a statement, finance ministry said, “(FM) drew attention to the practice permitted by many jurisdictions, which allow economic offenders to use investment-based schemes to obtain residence or citizenship to escape from legal consequences, and underlined the need to deal with such practices. She urged that closer collaboration and coordinated action were required to bring such economic offenders to face the law.”

“She urged that closer collaboration and coordinated action were required to bring such economic offenders to face law,” it added.

Mehul Choksi, wanted in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank scam, took the citizenship of Antigua under its “citizenship by Investment (CIP)” scheme.

According to the scheme, foreign clients can get citizenship by investing up to $100,000 in that country. The accused person also gets the added benefit of being free to travel to over 100 countries as is permitted to passport holders of Antigua.

The Citizenship By Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua received Mehul Choksi’s application in May 2017. Earlier in January, Choksi surrendered his Indian passport to the High Commission in Guyana.

India is currently pursuing Choksi’s return with the Govt of Antigua through diplomatic and legal channels and has sent an extradition request to the country.

(With inputs from Sidhant Sibal, Zee Media)